Ginn & Blaikie on Judges and Religious-Based Reasoning

Diana Ginn & David Blaikie (Dalhousie U. Schulich School of Law) has posted Judges and Religious-Based Reasoning. The abstract follows.

Is it ever acceptable for a judge in a secular liberal democracy to rely on, and explicitly refer to, religious-based reasoning in reaching a decision? While it is unlikely that many Canadian judges will be seized with the desire to include religious-based reasoning in their judgments, we raise this issue because it allows us to examine the appropriate role of religious-based discourse in a challenging context, where arguments about unconstitutionality are strongest. In a previous article, we concluded that there are no ethical impediments to citizens using such discourse in discussing public affairs. We argued that it is no less virtuous (although it may sometimes be less persuasive) to reason from one’s religious convictions than from any other comprehensive set of values, when advocating for or against public policy alternatives. We would suggest that this is generally also the case for elected representatives. ‚Thus, in our view, it would be perfectly acceptable for a member of a legislature to buttress a call for increased funding for social services by reference to Proverbs 19:17: “One who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord.” However, it is unconstitutional for a legislature to pass legislation for a religious purpose; therefore, legislators must recognize the distinction between advocating legislation designed to achieve a religious purpose and using religious arguments to support or oppose legislation designed to achieve a public purpose.

Bateman on Sovereignty’s Missing Moral Imperative

C.G. Bateman (U. of British Columbia Faculty of Law) has posted Sovereignty’s Missing Moral Imperative. The abstract follows.

The following paper claims that the theoretical construct of sovereignty was not only expropriated by the Christian religion out of ancient religious beliefs – shared with them by both Jewish and Muslim traditions – but, perhaps more importantly for modern policy considerations, that it always insisted on a positive moral imperative being placed on the person or body executing it in practice.

John Milton on Secularized Law

From Paradise Lost, Book 5.  An exchange between Satan and the angel Abdiel — “than whom none with more zeal adored The Deity” — after Abdiel angrily asks, “Shall thou give law to God? shalt thou dispute With him the points of liberty, who made Thee what thou art, and formed the Powers of Heaven Such as he pleased and circumscribed their being? . . . . His laws our laws; all honor to him done Returns our own.” 

Whereat rejoiced th’ Apostate, and more haughty thus replied:
That we were form’d then, say’st thou? and the work 
Of secondary hands, by task transfer’d
From Father to his Son? Strange point, and new!
Doctrine which we would know whence learn’d: who saw 
When this creation was? Remember’st thou
Thy making, while the Maker gave thee being?
We know no time when we were not as now;
Know none before us, self-begot, self-raised
By our own quick’ning pow’r, when fatal course
Had circled his full orb, the birth mature
Of this our native Heav’n, ethereal sons.
Our puissance is our own; our own right hand
Shall teach us highest deeds, by proof to try
Who is our equal: then thou shalt behold
Whether by supplication we intend
Address, and to begirt th’almighty throne
Beseeching or besieging. This report,
These tidings, carry to th’Anointed King;
And fly, ere evil intercept thy flight.

Bernard, “The Late Medieval English Church”

A very interesting historical work by G.W. Bernard (University of Southampton) discussing the pre-Reformation Catholic Church in England: The Late Medieval English Church: Vitality and Vulnerability Before the Break With Rome (YUP 2012).  The publisher’s description follows.

The later medieval English church is invariably viewed through the lens of the Reformation that transformed it. But in this bold and provocative book historian George Bernard examines it on its own terms, revealing a church with vibrant faith and great energy, but also with weaknesses that reforming bishops worked to overcome.

Bernard emphasizes royal control over the church. He examines the challenges facing bishops and clergy, and assesses the depth of lay knowledge and understanding of the teachings of the church, highlighting the practice of pilgrimage. He reconsiders anti-clerical sentiment and the extent and significance of heresy. He shows that the Reformation was not inevitable: the late medieval church was much too full of vitality. But Bernard also argues that alongside that vitality, and often closely linked to it, were vulnerabilities that made the break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries possible. The result is a thought-provoking study of a church and society in transformation.

Avon & Khatchadourian, “Hezbollah: A History of the ‘Party of God'”

Here’s an interesting looking treatment of the deeply controversial political party which is now in a position of power in Lebanon and elsewhere, Hezbollah: A History of the “Party of God” (HUP 2012), by Dominique Avon and Anaïs-Trissa Khatchadourian (both of the Université du Maine).  The publisher’s description follows.

For thirty years, Hezbollah has played a pivotal role in Lebanese and global politics. That visibility has invited Hezbollah’s lionization and vilification by outside observers, and at the same time has prevented a clear-eyed view of Hezbollah’s place in the history of the Middle East and its future course of action. Dominique Avon and Anaïs-Trissa Khatchadourian provide here a nonpartisan account which offers insights into Hezbollah that Western media have missed or misunderstood.

Now part of the Lebanese government, Hezbollah nevertheless remains in tension with both the transnational Shiite community and a religiously diverse Lebanon. Calling for an Islamic regime would risk losing critical allies at home, but at the same time Hezbollah’s leaders cannot say that a liberal regime is the solution for the future. Consequently, they use the ambiguous expression “civil but believer state.”

What happens when an organization founded as a voice of “revolution” and then “resistance” occupies a position of power, yet witnesses the collapse of its close ally, Syria? How will Hezbollah’s voice evolve as the party struggles to reconcile its regional obligations with its religious beliefs? The authors’ analyses of these key questions—buttressed by their clear English translations of foundational documents, including Hezbollah’s open letter of 1985 and its 2009 charter, and an in-depth glossary of key theological and political terms used by the party’s leaders—make Hezbollah an invaluable resource for all readers interested in the future of this volatile force.

Troy, “Christian Approaches to International Affairs”

Jodok Troy (University of Innsbruck) has written a book which will interest international studies and human rights scholars: Christian Approaches to International Affairs (Palgrave Macmillan 2012).  I am not certain which variety of  “Realism” the author discusses, but the “English School” may refer to the loosely associational, non-fully-cosmopolitan system once described by Hedley Bull.  The publisher’s description follows.

Troy analyses how the understanding of religion in Realism and the English School helps in working toward the greater good in international relations, and studies religion within the overall framework of international affairs, integrating and framing religion, as well as religion within the field of peace studies.

Yilmaz & Aykaç (eds.), “Perceptions of Islam in Europe: Culture, Identity, and the Muslim ‘Other'”

Edited by Hakan Yilmaz (Bogaziçi University, Turkey) and Çagla E. Aykaç, here is a book of essays presenting a series of case studies and more theoretical reflections on the condition of Muslim integration in Europe: Perceptions of Islam in Europe: Culture, Identity, and the Muslim ‘Other’ (Palgrave Macmillan 2012).  The publisher’s description follows.

For centuries, the Islamic world has been represented as the ‘other’ within European identity constructions — an ‘other’ perceived to be increasingly at odds with European forms of modernity and culture. With the perceived gap between Islam and Europe widening, leading scholars in this work come together to provide genuine and realistic analyses about perceptions of Islam in the West. The book bridges these analyses with in-depth case studies from Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Turkey and other parts of the European Union. This study goes beyond the usual dichotomies of “clashes of civilizations” and “cultural conflict” to try to understand the numerous, diverse and multifaceted ways — some conflictual, some peaceful — in which cultural exchanges have taken place historically, and which continue to take place, between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.